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By Will Phillips
Despite original opponent Apollo backing out of the fourth annual Autism Classic, the Knights took the court against the Casey County Rebels on Saturday night.
The Knights won, 74-72.
Casey County jumped out to a double-digit lead with 1:32 remaining in the first quarter, 21-11, and kept up that lead through most of the first half, leading 35-27 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Knights came to life. Senior forward Latrelle Irvin scored the team’s first four points in the second half, and a three-pointer by senior guard Alex Smith pulled Marion County ahead, 39-38 with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter.
The Rebels answered and again took the lead on two free throws by freshman guard Jacob Smith. But the two sides pulled even at 42 all on a foul shot by Irvin with 3:54 remaining in the period. The teams battled back and forth throughout the quarter, with Smith bringing the teams even at 52 on his sixth three-pointer of the night at the 1:15 mark of the third.
The Rebels held a 55-52 advantage as the third quarter dwindled, but a buzzer beater by senior Brandon Knopp tied the game at 55 going into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was much the same, as the two sides matched blows, neither willing to let the other sustain a lead. The largest advantage of the period was five points for either side.
Down the stretch, seniors came through for the Knights. Irvin scored on a circus layup through a foul with 30 ticks remaining to give his team a 72-69 lead, and senior center Bobby Jaglowicz took a charge with 19 seconds left that took the Rebels’ fate out of their own hands. When he scored on a fastbreak layup on the following possession, he all but sealed the game.
“Bobby’s our big, big player when he gets in there,” Knights Coach Montrelle Irvin said. “You know what you’re gonna get. You’re gonna get rebounds, aggressive play, and you’re gonna get charges. He loves taking charges … With him being in the paint…they’re going to drive, and when they drive, you’ve got someone like a big Bobby that they think is gonna either jump or something, he’s down taking a charge, and he really helps us in that aspect.”
A three-pointer as time expired drew the Rebels to within two, but that would be the final score as the Knights pulled it out, 74-72. Tanner Davis led the Rebels (6-13) with 21 points in the loss.
Coach Irvin said second half adjustments helped his team close the gap.
“It’s our second week in a row that we took off, so it just kills the team when you’re not in playing shape. And you could tell, we were dead tired out there the whole game,” he said. “So, second half we just got down on defense, try and guard a man and help side more. They still did a great job shooting.”
He also talked about the impact of this victory.
“This is another big win for us. Nine in a row. If you look at all of our wins, most of them are close,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve been here before…It’s better to win ugly than lose pretty. It’s an ugly win, but I’ll take it.”
This game was part of the fourth annual Autism Classic at Marion County. The event included a silent auction and a trip giveaway in addition to the numerous basketball games.
“I work with [the autistic children] every day, being in special education…You’re just blessed when you have kids coming up…seeing them every day, seeing the strides that they make,” Coach Irvin said.
He added that going to work puts a smile on his face.
“It’s just an inspiration to me,” Coach Irvin said.
The Knights (13-3) were in action Jan. 21 when they traveled to Adair County to take on the Indians (11-6) as part of a double-header.